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Airbnb begins testing City Hosts program to give guests guided one-of-a-kind experiences

TechCrunch TechCrunch 3/06/2016 Lucas Matney

Airbnb has long lauded their ability to give guests the ability to have a really unique vacation experiences that go beyond just staying in bland and forgettable hotel rooms. Now the company is looking to revitalize the entire travel experience by giving guests the option to experience city life with specialized guided experiences.

The house-sharing service has launched a private beta of a new program called City Hosts which allows Airbnb guests to go beyond lodging and rent private tour guides to show them the hidden gems of the area they’re in. The private beta currently allows access to City Hosts available in San Francisco, London, Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo.

Airbnb wants to inject itself more into the experience of people’s vacations. The interface bares a sharp resemblance to Netflix and in a lot of ways that’s how Airbnb is treating this program: giving users the ability to choose custom entertainment experiences simply.

There are currently 36 experiences available and they all honestly sound pretty awesome, ranging from adventures with a kite surfer in SF, Vietnamese cooking lessons with a Parisian chef and tours through London’s Grime music scene with a record scout. The experiences are charged per guest and you need to book a place to stay through Airbnb in the city of the experience. Depending on the City Host you choose, you may be sharing the tour with other Airbnb guests or you may have the whole experience to yourself.

Someone wanting to go on the “Art Luminary” City Host experience in Tokyo will pay $250 per guest and will, in turn, be given a tour of the city by Yoko, a local art curator. Guests can expect to spend about 3 hours a day for four days with Yoko checking our local art galleries, meeting with artists and bonding at little-known restaurants and bars. Most of the costs of the experience are covered by the initial payment.

Though this program is still in its incredibly early stages, it suggests a definite widening of mindset for Airbnb which is attempting to command even more of the vacation experience of its users. It also gives guests a more activity-focused way to select when and where they travel. After booking an experience, the site will give you a list of spots close to the action where you can book a few nights to stay.

City Hosts’ scalability is something to wonder about. It’s clear the company has put a lot of work into gathering and vetting some of the cooler custom experiences in these cities, but one wonders whether the company would open this up to all users wanting to show off their cities. For now the private beta program is still in its very early stages with many of the experiences not even available until later this summer.

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